SL Book: Not the Last Goodbye


I’ve just finished the most amazing book, Not the Last Goodbye. I picked it up because I saw that it was written by David Servan-Schreiber (not because I knew what it was about!).

Shortly after my diagnosis, I devoured his first book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life (a must read, by the way, whether or not you have or have had cancer). What I didn’t know until I started reading it was that this is the story of the last year of his life.

In June 2010, the author received the news that a “gigantic, vein-filled mass” had taken over his frontal lobe, the region that had been operated on twice nearly 20 years before.

Though he acknowledged the fact that the survival rate of this type of cancer recurrence is zero, his “desire to live was very much intact.” Rather than falling into despair, Servan-Schreiber faced his many rounds of hospitalization, surgery and radiation treatment with courageous resolve. He also continued to adhere to the regimen of “physical exercise, yoga, and meditation” that he promoted in his international bestseller Anticancer.

Even when he knew that he was dying, Servan-Schreiber never stopped believing in the value of his holistic approaches, despite his relapse: “The fact that I have lived all these years with such an aggressive form of cancer…is enough to support the idea that it was within my power to contribute positively to my health.”

One of the most powerful aspects of this book is Servan-Schreiber’s authenticity. Essentially, he took full responsibility for having disregarded a key part of his own treatment plan: stress management. Instead he had embarked on an international tour (criss-crossing the Atlantic several times a month) to deliver his Anticancer message. Nevertheless, he concludes that he would not have done it any differently.

As his disease progressed and he drew closer to death, which occurred in July 2011, the psychiatrist turned his thoughts toward “dying well.” That meant getting his affairs in order and, more importantly, saying goodbye to friends and family, forgiving others and seeking forgiveness. For the author, dying was not an inevitable fate that would separate him from the life he so loved. Rather, it was a gift that allowed him to cultivate inner peace and forge even closer ties with those who mattered most. How is that for the ultimate Silver Lining?

This book is powerful, honest, and truly inspiring. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  1. Diane Immethun says

    For whatever reason this is coming out of me here.
    Thank you Holley.

    When my father was in the last year of his life, (after 10 amazingly vibrant years with occasional recurrences) when he finally decided to stop treating his terminal cancer, when he decided to LIVE without the veil of life-lengthening but sickening medications, I witnessed an elegant transition in him. There was a very palpable absence of stress and an open embrace to living the last months WELL. As a family, we threw a party-a celebration of life -while he was still living to honor him.

    That day, in garden party style, his favorite keg of beer was tapped (Anchor Steam), and attended to by his grandson, the best caterer in these parts presented a spread of beautiful, delicious foods, the temperamental summer rainstorms threatened and then abated, the people came in throngs, children danced to the happy beats of live music and my father was filled with the assuredness of knowing his allies for the next part of his adventure with this disease. There was no sadness that day… only absolute, pure, radiant joy. We were ready now for his inevitable departure,

    There wasn't a day there after where he was alone as his friends and former students came to be by his side, to ask his advice, to reflect on his purpose in their lives, to talk science, to share beauty, to share love, to share compassion.

    When he finally "croaked" as he would say, there was an odd, but understood sense of relief. Sadness? Yes. I miss him. We miss him. But he lives in us; in the canyons we walked with him in, in the knowledge we carry about this teachings through his graceful, powerful gift of living life fully.

    It will be ten years on May 4.

    • says

      HI Diane,
      Thanks so much for your note! I love that you LIVED at the end of your father's life. You description of "Elegant transition" is a beautiful one. I bet your party was fantastic! Thanks so much for telling us about it!
      Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story…your father now lives on The Silver Pen!

  2. Kim C says

    His honesty and courage touched me very deeply. I read it last September and I still think of him and his inspiring words – often. To live well and to die well is all . Our own presence is all we really need.